Tag: Mystery

Medicolegal Death

My wife and I went to see a medicolegal death investigator from the Douglas County Coroner’s Office discuss her profession—a presentation that was surprisingly lively. I thought I’d share a few interesting bits from the morbid monologue.

Naturally, the coroner was late a few minutes. Her Excuse? “Sorry, everyone, somebody died. No, really.”

According to her, a physician determines cause of death. But her job is to determine the manner of death. Both examine the body, but she also goes through the corpse’s effects, to the scene, to their homes and work places. Unlike the police, she doesn’t need a warrant.

The cause of death is something like this: stab wound to the heart. the initiation of the chain. The mechanism is what actually does the killing. So, stab wound? Mechanism: Exsanguination, i.e. blood-loss.

Cause: Pneumonia. Mechanism: Hypoxia, or lack of air, leading to organ failure.

As for manner? That’s the context of the killing.

She gave us the list of manners: homicide, suicide, natural, accident, undetermined. While the examiners will provide comprehensive data about the death, the manner ends up fitting into one of these five simple categories.

One of the coroner’s examples was an x-ray of a man with a nail in his skull. The point was near his ear, the dull hammerable bit in the center of his brain. Cause of death? A nail through the brain. But what was the manner?

After examining the wound, it’s entry, the equipment nearby, we determined the manner involved a nail gun. Judging by the angle, it was likely a suicide. He took a nail gun to his temple and blasted away.

We took cases (from out-of-state and with names removed) and had to determine manners of deaths. Mine was a guy who tried to prove a gun wasn’t loaded by putting it to his forehead and pulling the trigger. She called it a stupidicide but it was officially an accident.

We also looked at photos of grisly ends and did the same. There was a man who was struck by deer antlers. You could tell from the prong-pattern across his chest, the lacerations on his sides. There was someone who fell from a chair while fixing a lightbulb. Well, there was the chair, there was the lightbulb. We also looked at scenes without bodies and determined the cause of death. An alcoholic’s bed (the bottles, the trash basket, the sheets). A suicide by driving into a near-stationary bus (no skid marks).

One of my favorite anecdotes was about a skull she found. The examiner being a generalist, she passed on the item to an anthropologist, who determined the age and time period of the skull. She sent isotopes (water) to a lab and DNA to another lab. A femur was discovered with bite marks; this led her to find bone fragments in old bear scat. Within two weeks, they knew everything about this teenage girl, including how she was murdered.

The entire presentation was highly disturbing. I was appalled. My wife was enthralled. I hope she doesn’t get any ideas.

Fiction — “Sam Spayed, Private Eye”

It was the kind of day that made you want to lie around and wait for a belly rub. A breeze was slinking about the neighborhood, and the welcoming scent of McAlister’s Pet Friendly Kitty Chow was wafting through the window. But I had to be on my paws. Trouble could come scratching my door at any minute.

So I sat at my desk, playing with the blinds, waiting for my nine lives to run out. On my desk were a few toy mice and a ball of yarn I’d bought at a flea market to relieve stress. Whatever effect the yarn was supposed to have was being negated by the fleas. I used to have a pot of catnip, too, but I gave that stuff up.

That’s when she sauntered in. A domestic long-hair, although tame is the last word I’d use. She was a tall bowl of milk, white and fluffy with cream on her shoulders like she was wearing a second fur coat. Soft blue eyes. The type of dame you wish hadn’t been declawed.

“You stalking anybody?” she asked.

“No,” I purred. “You got something for me, or are you just looking for the litter box?”

“I might have something,” she said, cool as a calico. “See, there’s this fancy cat I’ve been nuzzling. And he’s gone missing.”

“You check the pound? Maybe he rubbed someone the wrong way?”

“Mittens always keeps his address on his collar. See, he’s forgetful sometimes. I’m afraid something’s happened to him, Sam.” Her whiskers twitched pathetically and I was string in her paws. She went on to describe her plaything. A Himalayan long-hair, blue-gray, googly eyes. Not the sharpest claw on the paw. More like the type who’d run out of an open door and drown in the pool.

“You armed?” she asked. “This might get fuzzy.”

I opened a drawer and pulled out my Ktaxon 5mm laser pointer.

“So you’ll do it?” she said luxuriously. “I should warn you, I can only pay in Purina.”

“Salmon?” I said. “Or Chicken and Liver?”

She looked sheepish: “Chicken Gravy.”

“Hmm.” I thought about it. To be honest, I would have hissed my mother out a window for a spoonful of Meow Mix. “All right, I’ll be your puss-in-boots.”

She rubbed against me in appreciation. “Thank you, Sam,” she said. “Now, please, find my Mittens.”

Fiction — “Raymond Clem”

I hadn’t thought about the letter in years. It wasn’t until I was at the MoMA a few days ago that I saw a name that reminded me. Mallick Clem. It was an inscription on the wall. Mallick. Clem. The installation itself had not been substantial. Mallick had starved a cat to death in a bucket painted like a can of tomato soup. The Warhol reference I got, but the poor cat? I guess I just don’t understand modern art.

The name Clem, though, rattled awhile in my synaptic nerves. Then it came back to me. That curious incident with the letter. Clem! That had been the addressee. One Raymond Clem.

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Case of the Missed Piss

From the Santa Barbara Hounds Case Files

Case File #86 #87

See previous cases here.

Agents Involved: Wilder, Percipheles

November 11

Wilder, while working as a custodian at Does Pueblos HS, was contacted by several teachers about a recurring incident in the Social Studies faculty restroom. The situation was reported as a daily “pee puddle” causing discomfort to female staff. One eye witness described the event as “some guy keeps spraying everywhere except the bowl.” Wilder took the case. HOUNDS!

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Case of the Key Espy

From The Santa Barbara Hounds Case Files

Case File #1 #86

Agents Involved: Wilder, Percipheles and Reeves.

February 18th.

Wilder found a key #1203-16 on the grass near Storke Tower. On its head was printed University of California Santa Barbara: Duplication Prohibited. Attached to the keychain was a bottle opener with the word Bathroom taped on the side. Wilder took the keychain off and attached it to his own set of keys. After consulting Reeves and Percipheles about Case #86, he then sleuthed campus trying the key on different doorways, to no avail. HOUNDS!

February 19th.

During an interview with the campus newspaper The Bottomline, Wilder overheard mention that the key to The Bottomline’s handicapped restrooms was missing! He said he didn’t know anything about it. HOUNDS!

February 20th.

Wilder and Percipheles checked The Bottomline’s handicapped bathrooms. The key worked! After relieving themselves, they went back to The Studio and closed the case. They were going to celebrate with victory wine, but a fly had gotten into their bottle of Barefoot Sauvignon Blanc.

“What a buzz kill,” quipped Percipheles quite successfully. Reeves drank some anyway. They decided not to return the key as Wilder wanted to keep the bottle opener.

Case Solved